The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on progress with the implementation of the Official Languages Act. It had not achieved 100% compliance during the previous financial year, and had appointed a service provider in July this year to facilitate and intervene at the institutions which had not yet complied.
Most of the Committee Members were dissatisfied with the decision to bring in a service provider, saying that it reflected a weakness in the Department. They asked why some of the Department’s entities had been exempted, and urged it to take the compliance seriously. It should be setting an example to the other government departments.
The Department had initiated a process to review the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage. The role of the review panel was to examine policy shortcomings, and to provide overall recommendations on the future role of entities. In February 2016, a draft framework for the content of the revised White Paper had been discussed and adopted.
Committee Members raised questions about the composition of the review panel, and why some members had dropped out. Members of the Committee also wanted to find if there was conflict amongst the Reference Panel members. They asked about the level of interface with communities, particularly the language aspect, with the panel going to various provinces, and said there was a need to strike a balance between decentralisation and centralisation.
The Department had liaised with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) to assist in setting up the National Archive’s database on the website. Currently there were about eight million entries in the database, which were filtered through the website. Phase one had been implemented. With phase two, the Department was looking at software where electronic records could be injected into the system.
Members expressed concern over whether the information stored electronically would be secure, and it was asserted that the system was not user friendly.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson informed and mandated the department to make documents available to the Committee at least 7 days before the Committee would meet.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would evaluate whether the funds being used by the Department of Arts and Culture was making an impact. If there was no impact, it would be fruitless expenditure. Her view was that the programmes of the Department were not working as successfully as it might think.
Official Languages Act implementation
The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) said that 100% compliance had not been reached during the previous financial year, and it had appointed a service provider in July 2016 to facilitate and intervene at non-compliant institutions. It reported that out of 46 national departments, 43 had language policies and language units, and only three departments had not complied.
Of 151 national public entities and enterprises, 66 had language policies and 26 had been granted exemption from establishing language units, while 85 national public entities and enterprises had not yet complied with the Act. There would be great improvement in the implementation of the Official Languages Act by the time the contract of the service provider came to an end in November 2016.
The Chairperson thanked the Department, and said that the report was clear and contained in depth information.
Mr P Mulder (FF+) said it was positive that the service provider was trying to get the message out there. He wanted to know how the departments related to the message, and why some were ignoring the Act. The DAC should take steps to counter non-compliance. This was a good opportunity, especially if one was talking about diversity and ensuring that other languages were brought on board.
Mrs V Mogotsi (ANC) asked the DAC to explain how far the service provider was in ensuring that other departments complied.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) asked where the difficulty was in the Department, and said he found it strange that it had had to deploy a service provider.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) said that she did not understand why the Department needed a service provider. The issue of non-compliance had been in existence since last year. She asked whether the DAC really understood the importance of compliance. Language created social cohesion. The issue that was being raised in Pretoria was due to the learners who were not allowed to speak in their own languages. What was the basis for exempting some of the entities? In her view, the language policy had to apply to everybody, including those in the private sector. She was very disappointed that some people in the Department, who were at the core of service delivery, were not adhering to the policy.
Mr G Grootboom (DA) referred to the language of science and technology. He said that Afrikaans had been excluded as a scientific language, and if one looked at the Northern Cape, Afrikaans had been excluded.
Mr Vusithemba Ndima, Acting Director-General, DAC, responded that the exempted entities had policies, and that they were required to have a senior language official to oversee policy.
Regarding Mr Grootboom’s question on Afrikaans in the Northern Cape, he responded that the policy in that province stipulated English and Setswana as the language mediums. The Department suggested that the Committee should take this further and complain to the relevant department concerned.
The Chairperson asked whether the community was aware that they could complain if they had any concerns in relation to the policy. She further asked if the Department’s policies were aligned with the constitution, and whether the policies responded to the needs of the community.
Mr Ndima responded that it had been playing a very successful oversight and monitoring role.
Ms Tsoleli asked why the National Heritage Council had to be exempted, because was it a heritage council, and it should have capacity to ensure compliance.
Mr Ndima said that as far as it knew, the Heritage Council had about four staff members and that it required assistance from the Department to ensure that it complied.
Mr Ndima said that like any other regulation, departments needed to understand that they needed to comply with this regulation as well. The DAC added that as much as there was a need for administrative will, political will was also required particularly, where the Minister of Arts and Culture was required to liaise with his Cabinet colleagues who were not complying.
Mr Makondo (ANC) said that the Committee had visited a museum in Pretoria that had adopted Zulu. However, this was in an area that spoke Sesotho, and he wanted to know how the Department could intervene.
The Department responded that the museum should have a multi-language policy and should not discriminate against any persons in relation to the language they spoke.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was not impressed with the Department, because some of its own entities did not comply, and asked how it was going to get other departments to comply. She added that this was law, and that no one could say they could not comply. This was one issue that the Committee would sit on until it left Parliament.
White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage
Professor Andries Oliphant said the Department of Arts and Culture had initiated a process to review the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage of 1996. On 4 November 2015, the Minister had appointed an eight-person reference panel to revise it. The role of the panel was to examine policy shortcomings, and to provide overall recommendations on the future role of entities. On 27 February 2016, a draft framework for the content of the revised White Paper had been discussed and adopted.
Multiple sub-sector public consultations had been held in various provinces, and through those consultations had come a need to integrate national, provincial and local systems.
The Department had then proposed a new White Paper, relevant to the current dispensation. One of the proposals made was that the National Arts Council (NAC) and National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) have one governance structure, but two different management structures, and to cluster and consolidate national museums, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Eastern Cape. The panel had proposed new funding strategies, such as private sector funding and corporate sponsorship, as well as beneficiary funding through practitioner contributions.
The department had intended the draft to be due on 30 July 2016, but owing to a lack of capacity within the reference panel as a result of members dropping out, a request had been granted by the Acting Director General to extend the deadline for the first draft, to 31 August 2016.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee represented what the people were saying, and that it would want to be part of the consultations that would be conducted in the various provinces.
Mr Mahlangu wanted to know whether the panellists who had dropped out had made any contributions. He asked about the level of interface with communities, particularly the language aspect, with the panel going to various provinces. He also asked for clarity on the appointment of eight persons to the panel, as he had understood that there were to be nine.
Mr Mulder said part of government was in favour of centralisation, and the other on decentralisation. He had been on the Human Rights Commission during the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations and said that communities were very important. The Department needed to find a balance between centralisation and decentralisation.
Mr Makondo asked whether the museum in the Western Cape had been considered by the Department for clustering, as it had the same mandate as in other provinces.
Prof Oliphant responded that the reference panel had been structured in a way that involved women, youth and the elderly generation, and it had always designated a translator during the consultation process. A ninth person had been appointed to represent specifically the youth. Based upon what they had learned from international experience, they were more prone to consolidate the policy institutions, but with no intention to weaken them.
The cluster of the Western Cape museum was something that the DAC were already looking in. The idea of clustering museums in the Western Cape had already been an oversight of the 1996 White Paper.
Prof Oliphant concluded that there was no conflict over the eight persons appointed. However, attendance had been very low, particularly when the panel had started the process of consultation, and it had been able to rely only on the initial three who had been appointed. The main issue was that people had not followed up on what they needed to be doing.
The Chairperson said the concern was that there was no time frame, as per the briefing. It was clear that the Department had missed the 31 August 2016 deadline. When it came to the consultation process, the Department needed to be very thorough in order to allow everyone to have a say.
Briefing on the National Archives
The Department had liaised with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) to assist in setting up the National Archive’s database on the website. Currently there were about eight million entries in the database which were filtered through the website. Phase one had been implemented. With phase two, the Department was looking at software where electronic records could be injected into the system. It was considering an e commerce process, where books and publications may be purchased online, but was still in consultation with Treasury in this regard.
The database had been digitised in consultation with a French institute, and this had started on 17 March 2016.The Department had received assistance from the Nelson Mandela Foundation to digitise various information within they database. The Archives participates and plays a regulatory role within all departments.
The Department said that the key challenge for the archives was funding. The National Archives and Records Service Act directed that there needed to be six members appointed by the Minister, and they had been appointed. According to the Act, there should be provincial representatives, but the Department had thus far received only three nominations from three provinces.
The Department was in negotiations with a proposal that the districts within provinces would have their own archives. This process had already begun in Durban and the Eastern Cape, but the idea was to extend and implement this in all the provinces.
The Chairperson asked if the Department had a deadline for the submission of the provincial representatives.
Mr Mulder asked about the electronic records for the archives, and whether there was any way of protecting such information, as it could easily disappear.
Mr Mahlangu asked about the eight million entries, and wanted to find out if there would be more added to the current entries. It would have been a good idea for the Department to take the Committee through the website, but he commented that it was not user friendly.
Mr Ndima said that the Department had started to work with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). However, it was important to build a close relationship with Treasury, because the emphasis was sometimes more on rands and cents than key issues of significance like the archives. With regard to the appointment of provincial representatives, he said that the mandate had been given to the provincial legislatures, but the Act did not stipulate specific timeframes, and this aspect needed to be tightened.
The issue with the archive’s web site was the server space, and the phase two process would try to resolve this problem. Digitised information had not yet been made available to the public due to the lack of server space, but as soon as this was resolved, then the information would be made available.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting by proposing that the items that had not been dealt with be handled at next Tuesday’s meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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